Visitation Schedules for Firefighters in Texas

In Texas, the Standard Possession Order (SPO) typically governs how parents divide time with their children after a custody or divorce case. Whether established by a judge post-trial or agreed upon in mediation, the SPO offers a common structure for sharing parenting responsibilities. While not always followed to the letter, many families integrate its guidelines into their plans. For instance, when crafting a firefighter custody schedule, adjustments are often made to accommodate the profession’s distinctive challenges.

Here are the hallmarks of an SPO for those of you who are scratching your heads about what it is that we are talking about. Under an SPO, the court designates parents as either the primary conservator or the possessory conservator. The possessory conservator does not live with the kids primarily. You as the possessory conservator would have visitation rights and the kids would live with your co-parent during the school year. Weekend visitation occurs on the first, third, and fifth weekends of each month. Holidays would alternate between you and your co-parent.

In a family law case, decisions prioritize the best interests of your child. That is the specific legal standard that the family court judge in your case would consider when it comes to making any decision regarding a child. This could be about child custody, conservatorships, child support, and a range of other topics. The best interests of your child should consider their current state, there are future needs as well as mental and physical health.

What are some of the advantages of having a standard possession order?

While a possession order may seem standardized, it offers distinct advantages for those opting for this method of dividing parenting time. Importantly, it provides accountability, which can be lacking without a court order in place. For instance, if you’re a father consistently denied time with your children by the mother, any court-backed custody arrangement is preferable to none. Though not particularly innovative, a possession order ensures you have allocated time with your child.

Additionally, it does provide you with a certain degree of predictability when it comes to being able to see your child. The first, 3rd, and 5th weekends of each month or a time that you and your child know that you will be able to get together and be with one another. on the other hand, if you are a parent who has had problems with your Co-parent taking advantage of visitation time with your children then having a standard possession order at least provides your Co-parent with a predictable setup time to see your children.

Many parents initiate a family law case with the notion that their co-parent’s absence would be preferable for their child’s well-being. This typically comes from a mindset that focuses on eliminating distractions and stress for you. However, there is a presumption in Texas family law that children benefit from being able to have sustained interaction with both parents. With that said, benefiting your child and taking some of the stress off of you in terms of daily responsibilities for your child is not a bad thing period ultimately, you want someone to be shouldering the load with you rather than just bearing it all on your own.

What are some disadvantages to having a standard possession order?

The predictability and standardization of an SPO typically do not work well for you if you are a firefighter, first responder, or another person who Has a job based around shift work. Working second and third shifts not only complicates adherence to a standard possession order but exacerbates the challenges of shift work. Since your kids are in school or do other activities during the day you need to be present with them at night. However, working as a firefighter doesn’t exactly make that easy.

You also need to consider the ages of your children when it comes to considering a standard possession order. For instance, If you have very young children then a senior position order may not work as well as other types of visitation. This occurs because your children are not yet in school, and standard possession orders are typically tailored to accommodate school-aged children. Additionally, if you have teenagers then your teenagers may prefer to have visitation that does not require back and forth during the week. The key point for them is that teenage children can provide their transportation in these strict pickup and drop-off times and locations may not be as necessary for them.

As a firefighter, it’s crucial to consider utilizing your ability to collaborate with your co-parent when determining your possession order. You can opt for a standard possession order as a fallback if you both struggle to agree on custody matters throughout the year. Often, your family’s day-to-day activities and commitments will dictate visitation schedules. In such cases, you and your co-parent can collaborate actively to devise a customized custody arrangement based on weekly needs, without rigidly adhering to the standard possession order unless both parties agree on alternative arrangements.

Avoiding Standard Possession Orders as a Firefighter

One of the first considerations for you as a firefighter is not getting stuck with a visitation arrangement that is not ideal for your child and you. If you and your spouse are not able to negotiate through issues regarding visitation then your case will go to a trial period and that intuition both you and your Co-parent would submit evidence to a judge and the judge would decide on visitation issues that are in the best interest of your child.

Flexible parenting schedules: a necessity for firefighters

As a firefighter, you could argue that a standard possession order doesn’t suit your family because your firefighter schedule prevents you from utilizing the allocated custody time. Most of the time, you’re unable to be present at 6:00 PM on a Friday and 6:00 PM on a Sunday. For someone in your position, a more flexible arrangement where you submit times to your co-parent at the beginning of the month would be preferable. While not all families can accommodate this, it’s better to collaborate with your co-parent on a flexible firefighter custody schedule than to strictly follow a court order that disregards your work schedule.

Creating a custody and visitation schedule that meets the unique needs of firefighters is crucial for fostering a successful parent-child relationship. However, from the perspective of your co-parent, they may be reluctant to negotiate extensively on this matter. They might question why they should prioritize your needs over their own. This perspective is flawed for several reasons. First and foremost, prioritizing the well-being of the children is paramount. It’s essential to focus primarily on the needs of the children rather than prioritizing personal interests.

Prioritizing long-term co-parenting solutions

Next, ultimately your Co-parent is going to be better off with having an arrangement that allows for you to have consistent possession and visitation with your children that is not an ongoing issue. Consider that while it may feel good to win at a negotiation towards the beginning of your case you should have an arrangement that suits your family in the long term. I can’t tell you how often I talk to people who wish that they had negotiated issues like custody and possession of their children differently during the initial stages of a divorce case. This is something for you to keep an eye on in your case.

A flexible and unique custody schedule may include a requirement that you submit your firefighter schedule for work to your ex-spouse within a certain amount of time after having received it. From there, the two of you can work out a schedule that makes sense. Maybe your order allows you to have a certain number of days each month with no set schedule. Once you get your firefighter work schedule sent out you and your co-parent can work together to create a custody and visitation schedule that works best for the two of you but especially for your child.

What do the best interests of your child call for in this case?

As we mentioned earlier in the blog post it is necessary to consider your child’s best interest when determining a custody schedule or possession arrangement. Multiple statutes in the family code may be relevant to you as a firefighter seeking an atypical custody arrangement. The SPO is presumed to be in the best interests of your children. However, the court is given a great deal of authority to implement orders that are not in line with a standard possession order.

If you’re seeking more time with your kids than what’s typically allotted under an SPO, consider that our state’s public policy aims to facilitate frequent contact between parents and children. Crucially, the court should prioritize possession schedules that foster a close and ongoing relationship between you and your child, tailored to your specific circumstances. Being able to make sure that your child is available to see you as frequently as your schedule allows is ideal.

The SPO lays out a schedule that is the minimum amount of time that can be expected of a possessory conservator to take advantage of. This does not mean that the judge should only consider an SPO just because of your work. This is a baseline for possession time for you and your children. If you can demonstrate to the judge your willingness and ability to spend more time with your children than what an SPO allows, they should also consider that.

What about if you are arguing for less time than under an SPO?

There are also statutes in the family code that could lead a judge to believe that a firefighter parent may not serve the best interests of a child by asking for an SPO. Do you have a special role within the fire department where you are constantly on call- such that you cannot commit to having your children as often as you would be able under an SPO? In that case, you or your co-parent would be likely to argue that an SPO type arrangement for custody is not in the best interests of your child.

A safe and stable environment is also important for children- especially for children under the age of three. For kids of this type of age being able to reliably see their parents is important to development. Judges would have a tough time ordering custody under an SPO for a parent who cannot commit to that level of possession time. For younger children, an SPO may not make as much sense if only because the order does not consider the needs of younger children primarily. An SPO is designed to accommodate the needs of school-aged children.

Be intentional and be specific

When contesting the implementation of a Standard Possession Order (SPO) in your child custody case, thorough preparation is essential. SPOs are typically the default arrangement for family court judges. However, if it becomes evident that a standard arrangement doesn’t suit your situation, the judge may deviate from it, whether you’re seeking more or less time with your children. Collaborate closely with your attorney to clearly present evidence supporting your desired outcome. Don’t rely on the judge to make connections independently; ensure your arguments are explicit and compelling.

If you find yourself in court opposite a firefighter spouse, consider their unique perspective. For instance, if you have a toddler and believe their firefighting schedule compromises their ability to provide optimal care and stability, raise this concern. Whether your child has stayed overnight elsewhere or is still breastfeeding is crucial. Additionally, prepare an alternative possession schedule for trial or mediation. Simply opposing without presenting alternatives isn’t constructive. Be proactive in offering solutions for the court or your spouse to evaluate.

When it comes to negotiating issues related to a firefighter’s divorce with child, you need to be able to have experienced counsel by your side. Having a lawyer who can understand the law, your circumstances, and how the two of these factors relate to one another is incredibly important. Fortunately for you, the attorneys with the law office of Brian Fagan are available 6 days a week to meet with you to discuss the issues regarding your case. Whether you’re a firefighter or a firefighter spouse, the availability of a local attorney to cater to your needs cannot be understated in importance.


In essence, the Standard Possession Order (SPO) serves as the primary avenue for Texas parents to organize visitation schedules post-divorce or separation, offering a structured plan for sharing parenting time. Whether mandated by the court or agreed upon in mediation, the SPO serves as a dependable framework for co-parenting. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to acknowledge that certain professions, like firefighting, may require tailored adjustments to ensure fairness and practicality in custody arrangements. By embracing adaptability and empathy, parents can craft firefighter custody schedules that prioritize the well-being and active participation of all parties, fostering a nurturing environment for children amid unique challenges.


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  1. Splitting a firefighter pension during a divorce
  2. Firefighter Visitation Schedules for Those Who Work 24-Hour Shifts
  3. How Do You Enforce Child Visitation in Texas?
  4. Divorce considerations as a firefighter
  5. What matters most to firefighters in a divorce?
  6. Why do so many firefighters get divorced?
  7. Do firefighters have a high divorce rate?
  8. Child custody issues for Texas firefighters
  9. Divorce and firefighters
  10. Texas Divorce and Firefighter Child Custody Possession Order?
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